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What is Pancreatitis?

The pancreas is an organ that we don’t often give much thought to and yet it’s quite important. After all, it is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes into the small intestines to help with digestion. It is also instrumental in releasing both insulin and glucagon into the blood, which influences metabolism and determines how effectively the body turns food into energy; however, certain lifestyle choices and health problems could lead to an attack of pancreatitis.

What is pancreatitis?

This condition is rather rare and occurs when the pancreas is inflamed. In most cases, this condition is acute and can be treated; however, sometimes it can become chronic. Damage to the pancreas will occur if the digestive enzymes are activated before the reach the intestines, causing the enzymes to destroy the pancreas.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis? 

Acute pancreatitis often causes upper abdominal pain that may get worse after eating and may radiate to your back. Your abdomen may be tender to the touch and you may feel nausea. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by a fever and rapid pulse.

Those who have chronic pancreatitis will notice the same abdominal pain that’s present in acute cases, as well as oily stools (known as steatorrhea) and unintended weight loss. If you are dealing with any kind of persistent abdominal pain it’s important to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist. If the pain is severe or makes it difficult to stand up straight, you need immediate medical attention.

Of course, there are many conditions and injuries that can lead to upper abdominal pain, so it’s important that you consult your doctor as soon as possible. If it is pancreatitis, this will often require hospitalization, so this requires immediate medical attention.

What causes pancreatitis? 

There are certain conditions and habits that can increase your likelihood for developing pancreatitis including:

  • Gallstones
  • Smoking
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • High calcium levels (usually occurs in those with hyperparathyroidism)
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Alcoholism
  • Pancreatic cancer

Sometimes the cause of pancreatitis is unknown. However, it is possible for this condition to lead to more serious complications such as an infection, diabetes or kidney failure if it isn’t properly treated.

How is pancreatitis treated? 

As we mentioned above, most people with pancreatitis will need to be hospitalized. During hospitalization, the treatment plan will include:

  • Fasting for a couple of days (this will help your pancreas recover)
  • Pain medications
  • IV fluids

Once we have addressed your condition, we will then try to find the root cause. Based on the cause we may recommend additional treatment or surgeries including:

  • Surgery to remove obstructions of the bile duct
  • Pancreas surgery to drain fluid and remove diseased tissue
  • Gallbladder removal (if gallstones caused your pancreatitis)
  • Quitting alcohol or finding an alcohol treatment program

If you are dealing with unexplained abdominal pain or other digestive problems it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist who can figure out what’s going on. Call to schedule an appointment today.

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